The number one question I get these days:
Why? – why am I going on this trip; why did I decide to take on such a big challenge; why Kilimanjaro; why Africa….
The problem with the why questions, is that my answer to that is so big and detailed, that I usually end up giving a shortened, abbreviated answer. There’s not usually enough time in that moment to give the full answer that I want to give, so I just go generic and keep it simple.
Here’s what my generic, simple answer looks like, “Because I like hiking and Matt’s passion and excitement for the MOHI organization in Kenya has spread to me.”
All fine and true.
But that’s not the full answer.
The full answer is much deeper. It’s messy and raw. It surely isn’t an ‘in passing’ kind of answer, and until now, I haven’t really shared it with too many people. Not because it’s some big secret, but because it can be hard to talk about. Most of the time I’m content to just give the simple, generic answer because it’s easier.
Unfortunately, I keep feeling this prodding in my spirit, that I need to share my why…in all its messy, dark form. Gonna get real folks…
Let’s rewind back to last year. Actually, we could rewind back to various years and seasons in my life when this would apply, but I’m going with the most recent year that applies to the context of this story.
Last year wasn’t good for me. On and off for years, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Sometimes it’s manageable, sometimes I’m totally awesome and yet sometimes, it’s crippling. Sometimes when I’m in the dark recesses of my mind, I fall into the enemy’s traps and lies and I spiral.
Last year I spiraled.
Did you notice anything off with me last year? Most of you would probably say no. Maybe my people closest to me would say something felt off but couldn’t put their finger on it. I’ve gotten really good at hiding it. Faking it. But faking it just feels like a lie and masking the struggle is exhausting.
I begin to believe the lie that I can handle it on my own. So many lies start to make sense and sound like the truth to me. Lies such as: I can’t open up about my struggles. I am in control. I don’t need help. I am alone.
The problem with battling the darkness in one’s mind, is that it isn’t a battle you possibly could win on your own. The enemy thrives in the darkness. He loves that we keep our struggles to ourselves. He loves to see us struggle and to see us drowning.
There was a specific night, last November, that I couldn’t sleep. I was drowning in the darkness that I was allowing myself to get lost in.
I was losing control.
I was believing every lie fed to me by the enemy: I’m not good enough. I’ve messed up too much in my life to ever deserve any goodness or love. It would be easier if I were gone. No one cares.
That night I was tossing and turning, quietly crying, riddled with anxiety and I knew it was time to bring light to this darkness. It was 3am. I went downstairs, turned on a lamp and wrote out a long letter to my husband. In that letter I expressed all the things I couldn’t actually vocalize with my words. Words often fail on my lips…written words are easier for me. I shared with him what I was going through, what it felt like for me most days, and I asked for help. Gang, asking for help is not easy.
Over the next couple of months, I opened up to people in my life who I thought needed to know my struggles. I didn’t need everyone to know, but I did need specific people to know. Darkness is diminished by light. I needed to bring my battles and struggles into the light. I went to my doctor and got on some medication to help with the depression. I began to take steps to healing and was feeling better day by day. I was abiding in the life giving hope and Truths in God’s Word.
Something that I began to see within myself was how I’ve let fear rule my life. Fear unchecked can turn into anxiety. Fear and anxiety left to fester in the hiding, battling alone and in isolation, can turn into depression. At least this was what I saw patterns of within my own story. I knew that a turning point for me would be avoiding isolation and not giving fear a foothold. I started to say yes to things that otherwise I would’ve said no to out of fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. You get the idea…
When my friend Barry posted on his Facebook that he was going back to Kilimanjaro and had some spots left open on their team, I actually didn’t have any hesitation; it was a yes. I knew deep down that I had to do this. I knew that this would give me the perfect opportunity to say yes to more hard things and little by little overcome some big fear hurdles. This whole, huge adventure really has nothing to do with hiking, well, I mean, the hiking is a great benefit. But it was never really about the hiking; it has always been about going out in faith to accomplish things I think God has for me. Just putting one shaky foot in front of the other and going.
My first fear challenge in saying yes to Kilimanjaro was the fear of failure. What if I don’t summit? What if I let everyone down? Barry’s wife Mendi spoke such truth into my life that first night we met up to talk about the trip. I had tears in my eyes as she spoke, telling me that if I don’t summit, I did not fail. She told me that failure would be in me not going on this trip. Failure would be me not leaving my family to get on a plane and fly to Africa to do something incredible. Mendi, you spoke the words my heart needed to hear that night. Thank you.
I’ve had many fear challenges since then, and I know there are still plenty ahead, but it has actually felt quite exhilarating to overcome them, or at least make progress toward overcoming them. This year of training and saying yes to big things, has also been a year of healing and growth for me. It truly has been a blessing to be apart of this adventure and we haven’t even left yet!
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”John 15:4-5, 9